Ever wondered why doesn’t soccer stop the clock?
Well if you have found yourself watching a game.
Only to be scratching your head due to the fact that the time keeps ticking on.
Well, let me tell you there is a reason for it.
Now unlike other sports soccer is very different.
For one you don’t have the time outs that are associated with Americanised sports, such as American Football and Basketball.
So because of this, it can be weird to see a free-flowing ball game, that only stops on two occasions in the game.
Within this post, I am going to explain why exactly the beautiful game works like this.
As well the pros and cons of it too.
So without further ado let’s get right into it.
Table of Contents
Explanation of the basic rules of soccer
Now to understand the clock rule in soccer.
First, we need to understand the sport.
Now soccer is a game played by millions.
In fact, I saw somewhere that it is the world’s favourite sport.
Both to play and watch.
The rules for this game go as follows:
- Soccer consists of two games with eleven players each. Each side takes up one half, with both sides trying to get a ball in the opposing team’s net.
- From the second the game starts, the time doesn’t stop. It simply ticks on until we reach half-time, with the first half being 45 minutes. Before restarting for another 45-minute period with uninterrupted clock management.
- Rules exist to keep the game fair and prevent unfair advantages. Players can’t use their arms or hands – except for goalkeepers in their penalty area. There’s also the offside rule, where attackers must have two defenders between them and the goal when receiving the ball.
- Fouls are expected in any sport. Soccer has its own too. So any over-the-top aggressiveness, going for your feet such as lounging in recklessly into challenges as well as your hands and head is not allowed. The consequences of these fouls can be drastic, with goalscoring opportunities presented in the form of free kicks and penalty kicks.
- To expand on that Referees are essential for enforcing these rules. They can issue yellow cards for minor offences and red cards for serious fouls or multiple yellows.
The game is supposed to be 90 minutes in total, that is the minimum and the rule for any professional game.
But you do have something called injury time, where the clock will continue to tick, to allow for any injuries and delays that may have occurred in the game.
However, from my experience, this is mainly an estimate and at the referee’s discretion until announced.
Analysis Of Why Soccer Does Not Stop The Clock
Soccer has expanded to all parts of the world, and that is including the US and Canada.
With the 2026 World Cup on the horizon, more and more people are likely going to be more curious about the clock rule.
As unlike other sports, as I alluded to earlier, this sport stands out because the clock does not stop.
The reason for this.
Well, it all comes down to traditional and strategic reasons.
Now first reason is to keep the game’s flow.
There is no leaving the room, after a turnover of possession.
As within both 45-minute periods, there can be action at any point.
Having rules in place like other sports do.
Would be disrupting the flow of the game.
Which for soccer doesn’t add anything to it.
The constant flow of the game is what adds to the excitement.
I have seen cases where there have been 10 minutes of non-stop attacking from both sides.
This is what fans love to see.
So a clock stop would be introduced for every time a team gave away the ball.
Or whenever a manager pulled out the ‘T’ sign.
It would most likely make the sport less enjoyable to both play and watch.
Arguments in favour of stopping the clock in soccer
Now if you keep up to tabs on other sports where the clock is stopped.
You may know there are many reasons why that happens.
For instance, if you take the NFL, it can vary from having a player injured.
To simply take away all the clock for the opposing team.
Now these are just a few reasons why it could be a good addition to soccer, as you can see below:
- Would eliminate time wasting, as players know it has no effect
- Faking injuries and players taking ages to leave the field, would also not happen.
- Brings some disparity in terms of the match length, with nobody needing to moan about referees playing too less/much time.
- Players and coaches would have more chances to adjust tactics during breaks in play.
- A controversial one would be with Broadcast revenue. As that could increase due to them being planned like they are in other sports.
Has you can see there are a few reasons, which on paper would be appealing to many fans watching the game.
However, with soccer, we have reached this point, with the same rules in place as when it first originated in the 1800s.
So changing a big aspect of it, in terms of the clock, would need a lot of thinking.
Essentially it would need to be known that it would actually benefit the sport overall, instead of bringing it down.
Arguments against stopping the clock in soccer
Now for all the fors there are understandably going to be plenty of against.
Some of the few you have for soccer and stopping the clock consists of:
- Game flow: The first argument is over the flow of the game. I couldn’t even imagine a game where you would need to constantly stop it due to timeouts, etc. Not only would it make it harder to play the game, due to the nature of the sport in regards to how you move around. But it would potentially kill enthusiasm too.
- Tactical plans: Stopping the clock may stop players like Neymar Jr falling to the ground every few minutes. It would then lead to other bad tactics being introduced that would kill the game in other ways. For example, soccer sees a lot of last-minute goals, if you could make time-outs in the dying seconds, then we would see a reduction in those kinds of moments.
- Injury time: Injury time would no longer be a thing.
- Anticipated length: Soccer may not be perfect in terms of time, but the fact it’s not that way is one of the reasons people love it. It’s that feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen that is exciting. So if you have a game that has 10 minutes of injury time at the end, and one team needs a goal. It can make the excitement go up a notch!
- History and tradition: Let’s not forget the pausing of the clock goes against long-standing customs in soccer. It’s what differentiates it from other sports. It’s just like with American Football, they made it so the clock never stopped. For people watching that sport, it would change it hugely and may even be harder for them to enjoy.
- Global standardization: The lack of clocks stopping in soccer aligns with international norms and regulations set by controlling bodies such as FIFA. Keeping consistency across all levels of play contributes to fair play around the world.
But with all of that said, I would still say that there could be more done when it comes to time management.
For the most part, it does seem like there is a lot of guesswork when it comes to time.
Especially with injury times.
Many fans debate about how much time should be added on, with no one really knowing the exact amount.
I have certainly done this myself.
So the following things could be done to make this even easier:
- Referee discretion: Referees could be granted more power to add extra time for long pauses or injuries without pausing or interfering with regular play.
- Video assistance: Video technology, such as VAR, can be incorporated to assess critical moments during the game without altering the unbroken flow of play.
- Expand substitution opportunities: Allowing more substitutions can help balance out time wasted due to injuries or premeditated delays, cutting down on the need for long stoppages.
So there you have it, while soccer has no clock stoppage.
Has I have gone over there are plenty of reasons why this is the case.
You of course have the history of the game.
And let’s not forget the choice to keep it that way by the governing bodies themselves.
Which I think says a lot.
As with other sports, having stops can make a lot of money.
But keeping the game to its original version, consisting of continuous flow.
Makes the game better to play.
Better to watch.
And easier to understand.
This is one of the reasons why I have grown to love the game over the years.
It brings moments of excitement that wouldn’t happen.
If we had a clock structure.
I have lost count of those last-minute goals in injury time.
This Neymar Jr one from a few years ago was my favourite.
It’s simply what adds more to the game.
In terms of drama and intensity.
So while a few alterations can be made here in there.
Maybe it’s more accurate with the time wasted in a game.
Using something like VAR.
To add that time on at the end.
I think it’s great that soccer has stuck to its core principles.
That made it such a hit when it started.
As well as the sport it is now.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ 1: Why doesn’t soccer stop the clock?
Answer: Soccer doesn’t stop the clock because it is a continuously flowing game where the duration is divided into two equal halves. The clock only stops for halftime and injuries, ensuring that the game remains unpredictable and exciting.
FAQ 2: How does not stopping the clock impact soccer?
Answer: The decision to not stop the clock in soccer has a significant impact on the game. It adds an element of suspense and keeps the players and spectators engaged until the final whistle. It also encourages teams to strategize and manage their time effectively during the match.
FAQ 3: Wouldn’t stopping the clock make soccer fairer?
Answer: While stopping the clock might seem like a way to ensure fairness, it would fundamentally change the nature of the game. Soccer’s continuous flow allows for skilful play, quick transitions, and strategic manoeuvres that make it unique. Stopping the clock could lead to time-wasting tactics and disrupt the game’s rhythm.
FAQ 4: Are there any exceptions when the clock stops in soccer?
Answer: In soccer, the clock stops during halftime, injury time, when substitutions are made, and for other situations such as penalties or when the referee needs to intervene. However, the core playtime remains uninterrupted to maintain the integrity of the game.
FAQ 5: How is time added in soccer if the clock doesn’t stop?
Answer: To compensate for time lost due to injuries and other stoppages, the referee adds extra time, called “injury time” or “stoppage time,” at the end of each half. This additional time allows for a fair representation of the actual time played despite the clock not stopping.
FAQ 6: Do other sports stop the clock like soccer?
Answer: Yes, there are several sports that stop the clock, such as American football, basketball, and rugby. These sports have different gameplay structures and strategies, and stopping the clock is an integral part of their rules and regulations.